Dimitrov loses ground to Ferrer and Murray in Race to London

Grigor Dimitrov loses in straight sets to Julien Benneteau in the second round of the Shanghai Masters

On a day and in a schedule that kept even the nimblest of tennis followers on their toes, the headlines would focus on one very special coming together of its biggest stars: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray would all play on a single day in Shanghai.

Indeed 10 of the world’s top 11 were in action, missing only Marin Cilic who lost in the first round. The story was the same for the Race to London, with 10 out of the 11 chief contenders involved.

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer had no concerns on that front: All three qualified long ago. Their sights were more likely on that other end-of-year race, the one that decides who will close 2014 as No1.

But Cilic was not the only Grand Slam champion still waiting to confirm his place among the eight for London. Australian Open champion and No4 in Race, Stan Wawrinka, has also been making heavy weather of sealing his place.

The Swiss has not beaten a top-10 opponent since beating three of them to win the Monte Carlo Masters in April. He went on to lose in the first round at Madrid and Roland Garros, and now he was also finding wins elusive in this autumn’s Asian swing.

Having lost in straight sets to the 103rd ranked Tatsuma Ito in his first match in Tokyo, Wawrinka has now also lost his opener in Shanghai. It was his misfortune to draw the resilient Gilles Simon, a former world No6 who has been returning to form after injury. Simon rose back to the top 30 after a battling run to the Tokyo semis last week, and now the Frenchman ground down Wawrinka through two and a half hours, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

In a near-mirror of that match, played at the same time on Shanghai’s second show court, the No5 seed David Ferrer also faced a dangerous first opponent in Martin Klizan, who beat Nadal in Beijing last week.

Some uncharacteristically poor results in a see-sawing summer sees Ferrer ranked at just No10 in the Race, and he was on the verge of his third consecutive opening loss as Klizan served for the match at 6-5 in the second set.

However, the fighting Ferrer broke back, took the tie-break, and fought off five break points in the third set before making the crucial break at 4-4. He sealed the win, in another two and a half hour contest, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.

So Ferrer has stemmed the losing streak in Shenzhen and Tokyo, but the going now gets very tough indeed in a top-heavy draw. He next faces Murray, who is starting to show the kind of form that has taken him to three finals and two titles in Shanghai.

Facing Jerzy Janowicz for the second consecutive tournament, Murray made impressive progress to the third round, 7-5, 6-2, showing the confidence, movement and variety of plays that make him such a formidable opponent.

Ferrer, then, will have to find his very best to trouble a Murray in this kind of form, but even if he does, he will most likely face Djokovic in the quarters and possibly Federer in the semis.

Ferrer’s hopes of London, therefore, remain in the balance, as do those of the man right on Ferrer’s tail, Grigor Dimitrov. The youngest man in the Race lost out to the experience of the 32-year-old No30-ranked Julien Benneteau.

The Frenchman is always a tricky proposition, able to attack with flat, heavy power and with the ability to mix up his plays, too. He reached the final in Kuala Lumpur last month, and has become used to beating big names: Wawrinka and Ernests Gulbis this season, Federer and Wawrinka last year, to name but a few.

And despite seven aces and a break in the first set, the popular Dimitrov was broken back twice. In the second, he could not even work a break point against Benneteau, and was instead broken twice, 5-7, 3-6.

The same quarter of the draw opened a little further with the exit of No5 in the race, the US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori. The big 22-year-old American Jack Sock, who has been making strong progress up the rankings this season to his present No60, beat the Japanese man, 7-6, 6-4, to set up an unseeded meeting with Benneteau.

More worrying for Nishikori, however, is that the back troubles he overcame in winning the Tokyo title last week returned with a vengeance. He needed a long medical time-out for treatment in the second set, so although he looks in a strong position for the ATP World Tour Finals, he will need to ensure he is fit enough to take advantage of his London debut.

Erik ten Hag
Chris Sutton explains his Man United v Reading prediction
Pep Guardiola
Chris Sutton explains his Man City v Arsenal FA Cup prediction
Gabriel Jesus
Mikel Arteta delivers Arsenal injury update on Gabriel Jesus
Gossip
Sky Sports News reporter Dharmesh Sheth
Sky Sports reporter delivers update on Chelsea FC search for next signing
Gossip
Frenkie De Jong
Fabrizio Romano provides update on Chelsea FC link to Frenkie De Jong
Erik ten Hag
Chris Sutton explains his Man United v Reading prediction
Pep Guardiola
Chris Sutton explains his Man City v Arsenal FA Cup prediction
Gabriel Jesus
Mikel Arteta delivers Arsenal injury update on Gabriel Jesus
Gossip
Sky Sports News reporter Dharmesh Sheth
Sky Sports reporter delivers update on Chelsea FC search for next signing
Gossip
Frenkie De Jong
Fabrizio Romano provides update on Chelsea FC link to Frenkie De Jong
Slideshow
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature